Much of the speculation about the main event of UFC 286 between champion Leon Edwards and former champion Kamaru Usman on Saturday (5 p.m. ET, ESPN+ PPV) at the O2 Arena in London centers around Usman’s mental state.
He was knocked out by a perfectly set-up and executed head kick by Edwards at UFC 278 on Aug. 20 in Salt Lake City. That loss ended a 19-fight winning streak that extended over nine years, and not only cost Usman the welterweight championship but recognition as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world.
On Saturday, they’re going to do it again, settling the score in the rubber match. Usman won the first meeting between them in 2015, but Edwards scored the more significant victory when he knocked out Usman at UFC 278.
Usman is a -250 favorite at BetMGM. Despite being the welterweight champion, Edwards enters the trilogy fight as a +200 underdog. The odds aren’t as wide as the last meeting, where Edwards closed just below 3 to 1, but it’s clear bettors are bearish on the probability of a repeat performance from the champion.
Justin Gaethje, who referred to himself this week as the most exciting fighter in UFC history, and Rafael Fiziev, one of the sport’s elite strikers, will battle it out in a crucial lightweight fight in the co-main event.
Also featured on the main card is a welterweight clash between Gunnar Nelson and Bryan Barberena and a flyweight tilt with former title challenger Jennifer Maia facing rising prospect Casey O’Neill. Marvin Vettori versus Roman Dolidze face off in a top-ranked middleweight bout to kick off the pay-per-view.
UFC 286 picks, predictions
Kevin Iole: Edwards is a world-class striker and he can never be discounted, but Usman has the tools to defuse Edwards and grind out a win. I’ll lay the 250 and bet Usman to win.
Mark Drumheller: In terms of probabilities, it seems much more likely Usman will tighten up defensively and return to his bread and butter here. That’s not to say Edwards isn’t a worthy champion or that his knockout should be remembered as a modern-day Matt Serra-Georges St-Pierre moment, but I have a hard time seeing him finishing Usman again or winning enough minutes to take home a decision. St-Pierre was a much more methodical fighter after losing his title and used his wrestling to limit his exposure to damage. I expect Usman to employ a similar strategy to reclaim his title by grinding out a win on Saturday.
UFC 286 live tracker
UFC 286 early prelims, odds (Start time 5 p.m. ET, ESPN+)
Welterweight: Leon Edwards (+200) vs. Kamaru Usman (-250)
Lightweight: Justin Gaethje (+200) vs. Rafael Fiziev (-240)
Welterweight: Gunnar Nelson (-375) vs. Bryan Barberena (+295)
Women’s flyweight: Jennifer Maia (+155) vs. Casey O’Neill (-185)
Middleweight: Marvin Vettori (-275) vs. Roman Dolidze (+225)
UFC 286 prelims, odds (Start time 3 p.m. ET, ESPNews/ESPN+)
Featherweight: Jack Shore (-550) vs. Makwan Amirkhan (+400)
Lightweight: Chris Duncan (-115) vs. Omar Morales (-105)
Lightweight: Sam Patterson (-275) vs. Yanal Ashmoz (+225)
Flyweight: Muhammad Mokaev (-800) vs. Jafel Filho (+550)
UFC 286 early prelims, odds (Live now on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass)
Featherweight: Lerone Murphy (-185) vs. Gabriel Santos (+155)
Middleweight: Christian Leroy Duncan (-225) vs. Dusko Todorovic (+185)
Flyweight: Jake Hadley (-450) vs. Malcolm Gordon (+340)
Women’s flyweight: Joanne Wood (-175) vs. Luana Carolina (+145)
Lightweight: Jai Herbert (+170) vs. Ludovit Klein (-210)
Women’s flyweight: Veronica Hardy def. Juliana Miller by unanimous decision (3-27, 30-27, 30-27)